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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Suited for success

Originally published June 10, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

This is my first summer at a normal weight. To celebrate, I promised my husband I would buy a swimsuit. He’s a water baby and has pouted for years that I won’t go swimming with him or hang out at our friends’ houseboats. I’ve never even gone on his family’s annual summer vacation at Lake Tahoe.

I can think of few things I dread more than wearing a swimsuit, but I’m pretty sure trying suits on in store dressing rooms is worse. I haven’t bought a suit in seven years. The only reason I bought one then was because I was visiting a relative in Hawaii, and she told me she’d leave me at the airport if I didn’t have a swimsuit in my suitcase.

I’m a planner, and as such, I’ve spent the last four or five months scouting swimsuit styles to see what’s out there and what might look good on me. Weight loss has changed my body into a bit of a pear shape, which makes standard one-piece suits not exactly suitable. The tankini was my greatest discovery. The suits can offer the coverage of a one-piece but the separate pieces can be mixed to offer the perfect fit.

I decided to take advantage of my favorite department store’s Memorial Day sale last week and blocked out a few hours in search of the perfect suit, or at least one that didn’t make me cringe to wear in public. Having already decided I wanted a tankini, I gravitated toward that section.
I fell in love with a selection of suits with brown bottoms and teal-and-brown tops. I was disappointed to see that the store was out of full-coverage bottoms, though. The only brown bottoms were swim skirts and low-rise bottoms, but I grabbed one of each, just in case. After all, the tops were that cute. Then I went to the black suit section and found a modest black set with full-coverage bottoms and top.

In all, I took about a dozen pieces into the dressing room. I set aside my favorite styles to try on. Two of the brown-and-teal tops were awesome. They were both halter-style, which experts say will emphasize the bust line and help balance a narrow upper body with a wider lower body. I also found the halter styles to be more supportive than standard swim tops.

Once I found what I thought was the perfect top, I tried on the bottoms. I went for the low-rise bottoms first, knowing ahead of time that they would probably be a no-go. I was right. I may be less than half the woman I used to be, but that does not mean my navel needs to be seen in public.

Next I tried on the skirt. The tag said swim skirts were good to “slim and hide hips and thighs.” Such skirts may cover the hips and upper thigh, but I strongly disagree that they function to “slim” or “hide” anything. The skirt wasn’t long enough to cover what I consider the most problematic part of my thighs. If anything, having the hemline fall at the widest part of my thighs just seemed to make me look even wider. And, as I remember from the bathing suit I bought seven years ago, when wet, swim skirts cling in all the wrong ways. The skirt was definitely out.

That left me with the lone black suit. I liked the bottoms on. They were basic and showed my entire thigh, but I figured I could wear a sarong if I didn’t want to be so exposed. The top, sadly, was not a halter-style. But it was flattering and supportive, and after waffling back and forth for a solid 10 minutes, I decided to go with it. I bought the top in a size 10 and the bottoms in a 12.
I have yet to wear it, but that family vacation in Tahoe is next week, and the suit is already packed.

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